Home   >   Industry Voices

Iryna Afanasyeva of Sandsoft talks about how games can inspire people of all backgrounds to dream big

"Games wield real power...We can direct this power to make this world a better place"
Iryna Afanasyeva of Sandsoft talks about how games can inspire people of all backgrounds to dream big

Here at we celebrate diversity of all kinds. Speaking to various inspiring women at our Pocket Gamer Connects events around the world, and being aware that there is still a real need to shout about the subject, we decided to focus on females for December. In this series of features we will interview various women working in gaming, as well as sharing other stories around the subject.

Iryna Afanasyeva is Product Marketing Manager at Sandsoft Games and has a real passion for promoting equality within the industry.

<hr/> Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your current role?

I’m lucky to be a part of an amazing team at Sandsoft where I’m responsible for product marketing. I look after market assessment and segmentation, product strategy, and brand awareness.

What first attracted you to the gaming industry?

Its power! Games wield real power over financial flows, fashion trends and people’s minds. We can direct this power to make this world a better place.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a tweet by a psychotherapist who stated that his patients often said that playing games distracted them “from the bad” or even “saved their lives”.

Games inspire people to dream and dare. They teach us through storylines, support and cheer us up, connect us regardless of distance and social layers, and unite us. They promote movements and initiatives to contribute to social causes, such as environmental protection, a healthy way of life, and animal protection.

What effect do you think the culture within which you grew up has had an influence on your career path?

I grew up in Kharkiv – a Ukrainian city rich in history and tradition, open to many nationalities, and a place where science and intelligence are cherished. Now that I work with colleagues raised in various cultures and who speak various languages, I keep admiring how a multicultural mix enhances a multitalented team and generates outstanding results.

What challenges have you had to face during your career - thinking specifically about being a female in the industry?

I find it very hard to determine the line between challenges that I’ve faced due to a genuine lack of skill or experience, and those that may have been unfairly influenced by the fact I’m female; especially during the early stages of my career.

Nowadays, there are more tools in place to empower women; the topic is being brought up at gaming events and widely discussed. It is important to speak about it.

What advice would you give to companies looking to improve equality within the workplace?

The number of women playing games is increasing and this trend should be also represented on the other, game-making side of the gaming industry.

I am happy to see more women in the gaming sector, in management, development, and creative fields, but it is evident that there is much to be done in this area. Education from the early stages, internship opportunities and maternity support are some of the most important steps that could be taken in order to improve gender equality in the workplace as well as fight against stereotypes or labels. Healthy company culture is the key factor for many improvements, including equality within the workplace.

And what advice would you give to other women joining the industry?

Be true to yourself to allow your uniqueness to shine through. Invest in your talents, be brave and be kind. The greatest games come from the heart, regardless of gender.

Who inspires you the most (not necessarily from within games)?

I am very much inspired by people who are brave enough to break the status quo. I could list famous names here, but there are so many heroes among us, who keep standing, fighting, and contributing every day to make this world kinder, brighter, healthier, and safer.

Since you entered the games industry, what is the biggest change you’ve seen and is this for better or worse?

The rise of streaming: it is amazing how previously unknown games can suddenly skyrocket because they started being streamed. From that perspective, games should now be designed to catch viewers’ attention as well as simply engaging the player. This trend is fantastic, as it gives a chance to beautiful games without financial resources to fight through the competition

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?

The current competition in the gaming industry is fierce. Oftentimes, fantastic games by Indie developers remain unnoticed. At Sandsoft, we try to change this through our investment strategy.

If you could only keep 3 games on your phone for the rest of time, which would you choose?

Subway Surfers and Drive Ahead! Because they are fun! I would love to keep the third place open for the game that is currently under development at Sandsoft. It’s going to be amazing.